2021 Wine Legend – Iain Riggs, OAM

The Hunter’s Living Legends alumni trace the depth of local history, pioneering endeavour and outstanding service that has made Australia’s oldest continuously operating wine region the special place it is today.

They’re not quite celestial deities, but they sure are an impressive bunch of superheroes. Since 2007 the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association has chosen a few special individuals to honor annually as Living Legends, celebrating those who have made a significant difference to the wine and tourism offering of the Hunter.

After the gaping hole left by last year’s avalanche of cancellations, hundreds of local luminaries and humble hopefuls gathered at Cypress Lakes Resort on May 20 to celebrate the 2021 Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Industry Awards. Hosted by royal local lass Jane Tyrrell, it was the 14th year of this flagship event, the pinnacle of which was the announcement of the 2021 Living Legends.

Selected by a panel of current Legends, recipients must have a record of more than 30 years’ helping to advance the Valley as a wine and tourism region. According to Phil Ryan, 2015 honoree and chair of the selection panel, they are looking to recognise people who have contributed well beyond their own personal and business interests.

Having known both of this year’s honorees for decades, I can confirm they are highly worthy recipients. I also know a few tall tales about them both. All myths of course….

2021 Wine Legend – Iain Riggs, OAM

He is Riggsy to his mates. Winemaker, wine judge, marketer, promoter, educator, mentor. According to many, this award is long overdue, but for Iain it comes at the perfect time, having just stepped down as managing director and chief winemaker of Brokenwood Wines after nearly 40 years in the hot seat. Lean, laconic, often found with a Negroni in hand, Iain is originally from the Clare Valley in SA. He studied winemaking at Roseworthy, cutting his winemaking teeth in Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale. He came to the Hunter in 1982 as the first official winemaker at then hobby producer Brokenwood.

Incredible talent and dedication – past Living Legend honorees.

In the realm of Australian wine, there isn’t much he hasn’t had a hand in, through his long involvement with the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association, his roles with the Winemakers’ Federation and the Australian Winemakers Forum, and his leadership of the Len Evans Tutorial. He is a highly respected wine show Chair of Judges, a mentor to countless young wine professionals, a devoted supporter of local community organisations, sporting clubs and youth initiatives. An all-round good bloke.

In 2018 he was honoured with membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his significant service to oenology, the development of the Australian wine industry, and the promotion of the Hunter Valley region. And there’s more: Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year, the Len Evans Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Wine Industry and the Graham Gregory trophy for outstanding service to the NSW wine industry, to name just a few of his previous acknowledgements.

In his own words, Riggsy is “very honoured to be named a Living Legend, but still in awe of the true greats of our Hunter wine industry who have achieved so much over the last 70 years. Standing on the shoulders of giants indeed.”

Read more in the Winter issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Sally Evans, photography by Chris Elfes, courtesy of Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association